One of the most exciting Christmas traditions for children and adults is counting down the days until Christmas with an advent calendar. Starting on December 1st, a Christmas advent calendar lets you open a small gift each day until December 25th, when the main event arrives.
While you can purchase pre-made advent countdown calendars, a handmade advent calendar can help you get into the holiday spirit and add a thoughtful touch to the tradition. Learn about the history of advent calendars and how to make an easy DIY Christmas craft you and your family can open each morning during the holiday season.
A Christmas Countdown Tradition: The History of the Advent Calendar
Advent calendars get their name from Advent, a Latin word used by the Catholic Church to refer to the four weeks before December 25th. In Latin, advent means “coming,” which perfectly describes the purpose of counting down to the approaching holiday with an advent calendar.
The roots of the advent calendar began in Germany in the 19th century, when people counted down to Christmas by lighting candles or using chalk marks on doors. The tradition has changed over time, with the modern advent calendar becoming popular in the early 1900s.
Today, most advent calendars feature cardboard or paper boxes that you can open to find candy or tiny treasures. Creating your own advent calendar lets you participate in this meaningful holiday tradition while putting a personalized twist on the Christmas craft.
How to Make a DIY Advent Calendar
I remember always having advent calendars at Christmastime growing up, and it's something I look forward to doing for my kids one day. For now, I guess I'll have to settle for making them for Andrew and myself, which means...more candy for me! After making a couple of advent calendars over the years, I have finally found my favorite way to make one using a jewelry organizer as the perfectly sized base. Using my trusty Excel Blades hobby knife, I made a custom DIY paper advent calendar filled with candy, and you simply tear the paper each day to reveal what's inside. December, here I come!
As long as you use a 24-cavity organizer for the 24 days leading up to Christmas, you're good to go with this DIY. The hardest part of this project is measuring and cutting accurately, but with a ruler to guide you and a sharp hobby blade to cut through the paper easily, it shouldn't be difficult to make. I made the numbers with large stamps and alternating pink and green ink. After all, traditional red and green is a little too traditional for my taste.
DIY Christmas Advent Calendar Tutorial
Time: 30 minutes
Poster board or cardstock paper
- Note, I did end up choosing to use colored ink instead of white because it stood out better. View our gallery for step-by-step instructions.
Step 1: Place the jewelry organizer on top of the poster paper and cut around the edge of the paper so that it is equal in size to the organizer.
Step 2: With the ruler and pencil, measure and outline 24 equal-sized cavities on the backside of the poster so that the lines correspond with the cavities of the jewelry organizer.
Step 3: With the hobby knife, cut a line down the middle of each box, leaving about ½-inch between vertical lines. Each cut line will be the door to a cavity.
Step 4: Turn over the paper. Stamp/paint numbers 1 to 24 over each cut to mark where each cavity is.
Step 5: Fill each cavity of the jewelry organizer with a piece of candy or even a small gift.
Step 6: Apply glue around the top edges and sections of the organizer and stick the paper face up on top. Let dry and add additional embellishments if desired.
To Use: Press through the cavity of the day of December to reveal the gift inside!
The glue keeps everything held together so that you only pull apart one day at a time and it won't make a huge mess. I'm looking forward to continuing to break into it throughout the month of December and enjoy all of the candy hidden inside. This is definitely my favorite time of year!
Advent Calendar Ideas
One of the best things about creating your own advent calendar are the unique touches you can put on its design and theme. Once you complete the basic steps for the craft following the directions above, you can add festive flourishes to make it an adorable piece of holiday decor for your home.
One adorable idea is to use a Christmas tree-shaped jewelry organizer for your advent calendar. Use a piece of green poster paper on top, stamp or write your dates on the corresponding compartments and cut openings with your Excel blades. Glue pom poms and colored twine around the box so it resembles a decorated tree and enjoy watching your family count down each day.
You can also browse printable advent calendar templates online for your project. Find a design you like, print it out and paste it onto your poster board. This is a good alternative to drawing the numbers on yourself, but it allows you to customize your advent calendar.
If you don’t want to use a jewelry organizer, save toilet paper rolls to create an advent calendar. Glue the rolls to a colored poster board in your preferred shape and place your goodies inside. Then, glue poster board or tissue paper to the top of the rolls to seal in the treats and make a small incision with your Excel hobby knife.
These ideas can help you create a festive holiday advent calendar that doubles as Christmas decorations for your home.
Filler Ideas for Your Advent Calendar
The treats inside your calendar are just as important as the craft’s exterior. Although most people put a few pieces of candy inside each compartment, you might consider other options such as:
- Small gifts like lip balm, figurines or coins
- Small paper bags filled with popcorn, nuts or other healthier treat options
- Pieces of paper with small acts of kindness your family can do that day
- Craft supplies like glitter, tape or buttons
- Santa or character-themed stickers
Create a Memorable Advent Calendar for Your Home
Making a DIY advent calendar is an ideal craft for the holidays. Make yours with the help of your children to create Christmas memories together and start a new tradition that will make the holidays extra special each year.